Sorting by Five Columns

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 7, 2015)

2

Excel includes a sorting feature that allows you to easily sort a data list by up to three columns. If you have a large or complex data list, you may want to sort by more than three columns, however. There are several ways you can accomplish this.

Assuming you have five columns you want sorted by, the first method is to just do two passes at sorting. If you want to sort the data in the order of columns A, B, C, D, and E, you would perform the first sort using columns C, D, and E. Once these are in order, sort by columns A and B. The result is that your entire data list is in order.

Closely related to this is the fact that you can use the sort tools on the toolbar to sort your five columns. First, choose a cell in column E, then click on either the Sort Ascending or Sort Descending tool. Repeat this process by selecting a cell in each of the other columns (D, C, B, and A), in turn, and clicking on the appropriate tool. At the end of this iterative process (which takes only five quick clicks of the sorting tools), your entire list is in the order you desire.

There is an important things to keep in mind when sorting as described here: The character of your list data can affect the quality of the sort performed. If your data contains empty cells, error values, or numbers formatted as text, then Excel may not sort the data in the method you expect. The solution is to "normalize" your data—for instance, making sure that numbers are really numbers and not numbers formatted as text—and then do the sort again.

Another solution is to create a "sorting column" for your data. This approach works great if your data is all text, or if you can easily convert it into a text-based format for the sorting. Under this scenario, you would combine the contents of columns A through E into column F, and then sort by a single column: F. You could use this type of formula in column F:

=A1 & B1 & C1 & D1 & E1

If one of the columns contains a date, you will need to convert the date to a consistent text format, as done with this formula:

=A1 & B1 & C1 & TEXT(D1,"yyyymmdd") & E1

If one of the columns contains numeric values, you can normalize them by using a similar TEXT function construct that pads the value with leading zeroes:

=A1 & TEXT(B1,"000000") & C1 & D1 & E1

If you do quite a bit of sorting, and you don't want to use Excel's built-in sorting routines, then you should investigate third-party sorting functions. Sorting algorithms are a fascinating branch of mathematics, and some very popular algorithms (such as shell sort, exchange sort, bubble sort, etc.) can be implemented through Excel functions. How those functions would be used on your system depends on the way they were implemented by their developer.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2255) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Get Rid of Web Stuff

When you copy information from a Web page and paste it into a worksheet, you can end up with more than you bargained for. ...

Discover More

Changing the Pattern Used in a Data Series

When you create a chart, Excel attempts to assign colors to your data series that it thinks will work best for you. If you ...

Discover More

Conditional Formatting Based on Date Proximity

Conditional formatting can be used to draw your attention to certain cells based on what is within those cells. This tip ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Sorting Dates by Month

Sorting by dates is easy, and you end up with a list that is in chronological order. However, things become a bit more tricky ...

Discover More

Understanding Ascending and Descending Sorts

When you sort information, Excel follows a set pattern of how your data is organized. This tip illuminates the burning ...

Discover More

Alphabetizing Worksheet Tabs

As yo get more and more worksheets into a workbook, you'll find yourself moving them around into different sequences. You may ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is two minus 2?

2016-05-24 07:37:26

Parth

Dear Sir,

I want to sort 6 columns with 50 rows each containing ticket no. (data is in number format). I need to sort these 300 data from top top bottom and left to right. How can I sort so that i get values in ascending order from cell A1 to A50 and continues to B1 and so on.

One thing I can do is to arrange all data in a single cell, sort it and then again break it into columns. But that is too much for me. Any other method to do it??

I need to do this so that I can print that data in a single sheet.


2015-10-18 07:50:17

liaqat ali

how do we sort MS WORD & MS EXCELL

REPLY me fast


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.